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Monday, August 12, 2013

Someone Here Smells Hard-Working

“Smell my fingers.”

“No.”

“Come on! They smell like bleach. Smell ‘em. They’re gonna stink for three days.”

I refuse to smell her fingers, although it’s not without its temptations. We are sitting at Zantigo’s, our You-Worked-Hard-And-Deserve-A-Treat Spot; and the teenagers across from us would be both disgusted and amused, I’m sure, if they were to witness me smelling her fingers.

Something perverse in me plays with the thought and dismisses it.

I’m not smelling her bleach-y fingers, even if doing so would mess with the kids.

I have my dignity, after all.

Mary closes her eyes and sniffs her fingertips. “Mmmm. I smell like an indoor pool.”

Our eyes meet and we laugh, just a wee bit hysterically. In the last several hours we have swept, mopped, vacuumed, and shook. We have washed. We have folded, straightened and rearranged.

But mostly, we have scrubbed.

“Scrub”. I like that word. To me, it looks like what it is. I just want to grab on to that word, rub it vigorously, back and forth, back and forth, over some stained bit of writing.

Mary is talking, and I struggle to focus on her. It’s the end of the day, a day in which I worked at my regular job and then tacked on a cleaning gig. I would very much like a nap.

“One of these days,” she says thoughtfully, lips curled around a drinking straw, “I’m going to discover, bleach-y rag in hand, that all the flesh of my fingers have fallen off, and I’ll think, Well I’ll be. The bleach done et it all away.”

She sets her glass down. “Truth be told, it won’t be an entirely bad thing.” She stands up, groaning, and totters her way to the pop machine for a refill. The poor woman spent the first hour and a half of the job hunched over the bathroom tub, scrubbing the hard water deposits from it, giving the grout on the shower walls the what-for. She hobbles back to the booth, and I am reminded of Tim Conway’s old man on The Carol Burnett Show.

“So losing the meat on your hands won’t be a bad thing?” I love playing straight man when Mary’s got that look in her eye. It’s been just the right combination of bleach fumes, cat hair, dust and cigarette smoke, and her bright blue eyes have a twinkling, Mad Hatter quality to them.

She holds her right hand up, curls it into a claw. “See, once the meat’s gone, what we have here is a scraping tool, the perfect scraping tool for the truly crusty bits at the bottom of the oven.”

“Always thinkin’,” I observe.

“Yep,” she says. Her eyes go unfocused and dreamy, and she sucks more Diet Coke up into her straw. “That’s us,” she whispers. “We’re always thinkin’.”

21 comments:

Shelly said...

"Something perverse in me plays with the thought..."

I have that same perverse thing in me that likes to mess with people, except now that I'm retired it's lost all restraint.

Simply Suthern said...

Then again, a scraping tool would be a lot less painful and leave the hands a bit more attractive. But on the other hand she could stick it in and pull it out of the punch bowl at the next Halloween bash for a nice effect.

Indigo Roth said...

I do so love these decadent tales of you and the ginger one. Just be careful with that "scrub" word. In England a scrubber is not what you might think.

Lowandslow said...

"“We’re always thinkin’.”

Umm...I'd be thinkin' of some way to get out of doin' that job. Like maybe knocking off a bank and using the money to hire.... ;)

S

Delores said...

Funny...when I think of the smell of hard working it doesn't smell like bleach.

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
"She stands up, groaning, and totters her way to the pop machine for a refill".. sounds like me, without the pop machine to ease the efforts! I feel for Mary.

Like her twinkly blues though - and especially like the straight man you! YAM xx

joeh said...

Nothing like a good Clorox high.

jenny_o said...

Do I have a tip for Mary and you! Use rubber gloves. Then your hands will smell only of sweat, stale sweat (from the last job) and a hideous rubbery odour. But your flesh will still be intact.

Geo. said...

I recall a work-conversation that involved getting trailer hitches installed on our pelvises. You do evoke unusual memories, Pearl.

Silliyak said...

Little early for another hangover?

Joanne Noragon said...

My best cleaning person taught me about washing off light bulbs and cleaning Venetian blinds. I'm passing it all on to the grand cleaners; ooops, grandkids.

the walking man said...

Wait I thought fingernails were the perfect scraping tool for oven bottoms and as a dual use noses too?

Lin said...

Ah, the smell of a cleaning job done well. Mmmmmmm.......

Al Penwasser said...

I suppose it could be worse than bleach.
She didn't scrub any toilets, did she?

Jo-Anne Meadows said...

The smell of someone who has been cleaning is a weird smell for me, now if I was asked to smell her fingers I would why because I am weird that's why

Lynn said...

It's really not fun to lose your skin to bleach.

Mitchell is Moving said...

Ew. Ew. Ew! But, what a concept.

River said...

When Mary's hands reach that scraping tool stage, let me know, I know a couple of ovens in need of some serious scraping.

sage said...

when people as you to smell something, you can generally assume it ain't good. As it goes, bleached hands would be better to smell than some other things...

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

She's right--that bleach stinks on skin for 3 days. And dries it right out. That's why I wear the stinky rubber gloves to scrub.

Daisy said...

I kind of feel like the old man Tim Conway portrayed too some days. :)